The March 6 presenter for the meeting of the Rotary Club of Heber Springs was Julie Douglas, Instructional Facilitator for Heber Springs Elementary School. Ms. Douglas spoke on instructional methods for teaching reading, especially in the Kindergarten through second grade years. 

Reading instruction at HSES includes the following components: reading quality texts, discussing the text, responding to the text, justifying responses, and encourages active student learning. “There is no way to speak about reading instruction,” she said, “without also discussing writing instruction. Reading and writing are reciprocal processes.” Using what she described as a Narrative Writing Diamond and the Expository Pillar, teachers give students the tools they need to write detailed, well-structured paragraphs. Ms. Douglas shared two examples of student writing which detailed these techniques.

Focusing on reading, Ms. Douglas described the Lexia system of instruction which students can access via iPad. This system includes five components of reading including phonemic awareness (sounds), phonological awareness (spelling), vocabulary, comprehension and fluency. The system allows individualized instruction based on student needs and provides targeted intervention in areas with which the student may struggle.

In addition to the instructional methods currently in use, Ms. Douglas also described the various assessments which the school uses to measure progress, and the assessments used to identify those students who may have learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Those students identified as needing extra assistance are provided with supplementary instruction in small groups.

The “One School One Book” program this year has involved all students in the school in reading the same book. Mr. Popper’s Penguins was read to the younger students by their parents or read by the older students themselves. In addition to reading the book, the school held a “literacy night” at which they showed the movie of the same title. It was an incredibly successful event, and an encouragement to the teachers and administrators focusing so heavily on reading readiness.

Everything that can be done to encourage students to read is a positive. One method the school uses is the Accelerated Reader program which awards students points for books read. Students read books on their grade level and take quizzes to assess comprehension with the goal of increasing reading levels. Points earned the allow the students to receive more books. The friendly competition between classes has increased reading among all grades.

“Students learn to read from Kindergarten to grade three, and from grade three on, they read to learn,” said Ms. Douglas. Because of this, the focus on grade level reading is paramount. Heber Springs Elementary School is working hard to impact early reading skills, which will impact future study in all other areas as the children enter secondary and even post-secondary study.

Rotarians are “People of Action” who are making a difference locally, nationally and internationally.  The Object of Rotary is "to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise." The Rotary Club of Heber Springs meets each Tuesday at noon on the ASU-Heber Springs Campus. For more information about the Rotary Club of Heber Springs, please visit our Facebook page at facebook.com/TheRotaryClubofHeberSpringsAR.